Left-brain, Right-brain Activity: Woes of an ADD writer

9 Oct

My husband can work on one task at a time. When he’s finished, he can sleep.

If I’ve ever coveted anything, it’s mastery of those two skills. Okay, forget mastery. I’ll take novice level. Apprentice, even.

I don’t think I’ve had a good, non-Nyquil-induced sleep in years. My brain simply cannot SHUT UP. At the end of every day, after we settle into the big comfy bed and turn out the lights, my husband sighs and whispers a sleepy, “Good ni—” and he’s down for the count.

At which time, my brain goes into hyper drive.

Hey, we gotta check on the kids.

We checked on them last night. They’re fine.

(NOTE: as far as you know, this wasn’t my attitude toward my real kids. As far as you know, they’re both well-adjusted, perfectly functional young men.)

On cue, we embark on the nightly tour. You might ask who “we” are, but to explain that, I’d have to take you with me, into the writer’s brain. Sure, it can be scary, but fun—like riding a roller coaster through a dark cave. I can promise you there’s a way out, but I cannot promise you’ll be able to un-see anything in there. This is your chance to click that red X in the top right corner…

And in we go…

So, like normal people, I have right and left brain hemispheres, analytics on the left and creativity on the right. Unlike normal people, the split here is not 50/50, but more like 90/10.

Do Not Enter

Not safe for man nor beast

That’s why, if you were to walk into my brain, the first area you’d encounter would be the hall closet of analytics. Open that door only if you enjoy being bored to tears, because it is stuffed to overflowing with everything not creative—shopping lists, driving tips, logical eating patterns, awareness of gravity, friends, siblings, birthdays, toothpaste, time, and laundry. At the bottom of the pile, beneath boxes and bags of forgotten skills like dusting and parent/teacher communication, lies a crumpled page of moldy pulp that used to be math, which will never be retrieved, and even if it were, could never be restored.

I highly recommend you close that door immediately. I don’t go in there if I can avoid it.

Instead, I invite you to turn around and look at the Great Hall. The giant table in the center is cluttered with delicious looking snips and chunks of my current project, a true story with the working title, “From the Remnants.” (More on that in a later blog.) At every place setting is a minion typing madly, transcribing hours of interview recording. Around the room, professors sit at easels examining order, chapter length, dialogue, setting, and pace. Very exciting stuff here.

Open the first door off the hall carefully, so you don’t send the imps scampering. This is the novel idea room, where characters are being created at a rapid pace. Fourteen, last I checked. Just from the doorway you can see Wilhelm, the depressed store manager; Earl, the blissfully ignorant cart-return dude; Shelly, who has a Master’s in Bioengineering yet works the customer service desk; Angus the Semi driver, and a cast of store customers with…shall we say…issues? I can’t tell you the working title of this book because it’s kinda neat and I’d hate to see it pop up before I finish the story.

The next door opens to the study, where serious work is unfolding. Lots of reading, cataloging, interviewing, and heavy sighing. Here’s my mom’s story, currently called “Withered Rose.” Please keep your voice to a whisper here.

The main bedroom upstairs has been cleared out. Perhaps that’s why I don’t sleep. I’m making room here for an incoming project I want very much to do. I may put a guest up here for a while, because the rest of the house is so crowded.

The two spare rooms are piled high with anticipation. Here’s where I keep the job bids I’ve submitted, which are in the “We’ll get back to you” phase. I’m starting to think they won’t pan out, but I’m ready, just in case. Off to the side is a small powder room, where I’m stashing my commitment to write a memoir in the Feb/March time frame.

At the back of the house are two small, lonely rooms I rarely enter. In one, my teenage runaway sits on the edge of her bed, waiting for me to visit so she can pour out her story. I know her story better than anyone’s, and I know how desperately she needs my company. I feel her slipping through my hands and during my night rounds I press my head lovingly to her door, willing her to stay with me just a bit longer.

The other is my parable parlor, which resembles a dentist waiting area. Magazines and patients strewn everywhere. I know the patients well. They’ve taken me to the edge of a completed manuscript and now they sit, waiting for me to sift, edit, and compile them into a short-story bundle called “Perfect Parent.”

Finally, there’s the sun porch, my favorite place to hang out after I complete my rounds. It’s quiet, dark…serene. I open the French doors and settle on the chaise lounge with a glass of wine to watch the parade. Field mice ideas, raccoon visions, a young doe or two of possibility. I watch them play and wonder what they’ll be when they grow up, or if they’ll grow up. I try to catch every snippet of character and delight in them while I can.

Smiling, relaxed, I finally drift off to sleep.

…Just as my husband wakes and starts getting ready for work. Field mice and minions scamper for the hills. It’s going to take a lot of cheese and hyper focus to coax them back into the house.


Sure, it’s a planter, but wouldn’t that be helpful?

No sense telling him about my night. He can see it under my eyes. Besides, he has a 90% left-brain walk-in closet filled with neatly stacked mathematical formulas and teaspoon-to-gallon conversion charts. He wouldn’t understand.

I begin another day, tired, but happy, trekking to the Great Room with an oversized mug of steaming coffee. Time to get typing.

Can I get an ADD amen?


In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. — John 14:2-3


Christmas Year-round

October’s “Keep Christmas Alive” tip is to go shopping, but for someone else. Someone you don’t know. Sadly, if you envision a person of any age and any size and outfit that person with hat, coat, boots and gloves, when the time comes around to buy for the Angel Tree near you, there will be a person in need who fits that size. Or play it safe and purchase a few toys. The selections are better now than they will be in December, and you won’t have to add that to your “to do” list when the crowds are out in full force.

5 Responses to “Left-brain, Right-brain Activity: Woes of an ADD writer”

  1. Kathleen Grunden October 9, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    You are such a gifted writer–and you so bless us with your words and creativity.

  2. christine October 9, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    I’m asleep as fast as your husband! I’ll be adding your Christmas Year Round tip to my to-do list. I know where I’ll be finding a Toys for Tots bin very soon. 🙂

    • pjoy93 October 11, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

      Great! …And thanks for commenting on the CYR…I was wondering if anyone actually read those. 🙂

  3. Liz November 10, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    OMG-I think you have my brain in your head! What good is sleep when I have a million to-do and oops-I forgot lists running around the room keeping me awake..


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    […] I took you on a somewhat scary journey through a typical ADD writer’s sleep-deprived night in Left Brain, Right Brain. Then I took you to Naples, Florida for a book signing and interview with the now famous Joe […]

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